Sacred Revenge in Oceania

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Pamela J. Stewart, Andrew Strathern
Elements in Religion and Violence
  • Cambridge, England: 
    Cambridge University Press
    , December
     75 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Revenge is an important motivation in human affairs relating to conflict and violence, and it is a notable feature in many societies within Oceania, where revenge is traditionally a sacred duty to the dead whose spirits demand it. Revenge instantiates a norm of reciprocity in the cosmos, ensuring a balance between violent and peaceful sequences of ritual action. Revenge further remains an important hidden factor in processes of violence beyond Oceania, revealing deep human propensities for retaliatory acts and the tendency to elevate these into principles of legitimacy. Sacred revenge may also be transcended through practices of wealth exchange.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Pamela J. Stewart is Senior Research Associate in Anthrpology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Andrew J. Strathern is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh.


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